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Growing up, many of us are taught that being sick is a sign that we are not taking care of ourselves. This is just one of the many mismessages about wellness that chronically ill people have to deal with and force ourselves to unlearn.
in his book For whom is well-being? An examination of the culture of wellness and who it leaves behind, Fariha RóisinAn Australian-born multimedia artist and daughter of two Bangladeshi parents, she questions the current state of wellness culture that has been colonized and commodified, as well as what wellness should look like in an ideal world for people dealing with chronic illness, mental. disease, or a combination of the two.
Unlike many wellness self-help books, which are arguably just commodified wellness culture, Róisín questions the barriers that prevent certain people from incorporating wellness into their lives. To succeed in a Westernized welfare culture, your problems must be easy to “fix.” This leaves out people with chronic illnesses and mental illness, and people who can’t afford classes and expensive “wellness” products. How do we break down these barriers? Community care is just the beginning.
Róisín spoke to DAME about the process of writing her book, the importance of access to care, and how communities can support well-being, both in ourselves and those around us.
In Who is wellness for?, you wrote about the importance of actively working to replace self-harm, both physically and mentally, with self-love. I wonder if the work of writing this book was an act of self-love.
One hundred thousand percent it was an act of self-love. That kind of consistency of really sitting down with myself and having to face so many parts of myself that I didn’t really necessarily want to face. Even if I knew about them, they weren’t things I really liked, something like my sexual abuse, it’s there. I know it’s there. But now I want to dig this up to show other people?
It is shameful. It’s hard. It’s ugly. It’s slimy. There are so many parts to it. It doesn’t feel like I’m settling into this neat little box. I think being a public person, in many ways, is an act and I don’t know how to act. I can only be myself. So the book, trying to get all of those things out there to address not just for myself but for other people, was a huge act of self-love.
Due to intergenerational trauma, people of certain ethnic groups have higher rates of physical and Mental illness (including myself, I am Jewish). How does the pressure of personal responsibility to “fix” physical and mental health conditions ignore the fact that we are also dealing with a history of trauma that is beyond us?
What I try to do with this book is to explain that care or access to wellness should be public health. It should be available to everyone. It should not be a problem if you have more needs or certain needs because you have a chronic illness, because you are disabled, because you are traumatized, [or] because you are mentally ill. Those things should not be imposed on you or your family to find a way out. It is the responsibility of the government in many countries, such as Australia, where I am from.
Many more of us need extra attention, and have denied ourselves that for so long, so it only exacerbates the problem.Exacerbates mental health. Exacerbates chronic diseases. isolates you Care is everything, having care and access to care. People who care about you, a community that cares about you, [and] a culture that cares about you should be our priority, because of intergenerational trauma, epigenetics, all the things we’ve experienced.
People who experienced that level of trauma are going to pass on that trauma. We are still not taking into consideration what war is, what migration is, it was mass migration. What are the impacts of colonization? How does that really affect the way we relate to each other? We have not yet improved the ways in which we understand how people’s traumas affect their livelihoods, and we should be concerned.
On the topic of how access to care is an individual financial responsibility in the US, I recall how GoFundMes have been created to support the survivors of the mass shooting at the Uvalde school. Right now, we are still dependent on a capitalist system, where people literally have to donate via GoFundMe to make sure these kids get therapy.
I get chills. During the pandemic, it’s kind of a joke where people say, “Is this how we get public health now, through GoFundMe?” Is that what gives us care? It really is, and that’s sad. Mutual aid is powerful, and I think it’s kind of an antidote to capitalism, but ultimately capitalism is the engine that drives everything.
There is a reason the United States is being challenged on so many different fronts. I think we really have to face the ugliness that exists in this country. This is not the first school shooting. It will not be the last, and yet we are still here. So what will it take? I think the only way for it to change is revolution.
Changing topics a bit, how can it be that engaging in wellness practices that have not been colonized by Westernized wellness culture is a form of resistance and self-love?
I will use myself as my own case study. The more I dedicate myself to taking care of myself and also what that means to me, it’s not participating as well as a wellness engine or this Wellness Industrial Complex where I need to buy this serum. I have gone back to a more internal place and have gone to the center of myself to really look, why am I sick? Why is my body sick? What is hapening here? My body is trying to talk to me. There’s an empowerment I got from understanding that my body is truly powerful regardless of how it looks, or regardless of how it may not exist within the bounds of normality.
Every day, I have to be very concerned about what I eat. That kind of consideration was something that was really hard for me growing up. I wanted to rebel against it. The more I focus on wellness, the more I focus on caring, the more I focus on investing in myself and not just artificially or superficially, I have found such a profound awakening.
How have the communities you’ve been in over time changed healing and wellness for you?
The older I’ve gotten, the better understanding I’ve had of myself. The more we have the language of ourselves, the more people will be able to ask others to support us with more complexity and appropriately. It’s been very profound for me to say, “Oh, I can actually come across as a better version of myself when someone can say, ‘These are my needs and this is what I want from you.'”
It requires the effort and care of the community, and I think I’ve naturally leaned more towards people who care about those things. Care is important to everyone and should be accessible to everyone, especially in a community. We should all take care of each other.
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